Chapter 2 - The Indian Act

Chapter 2 - The Indian Act

Chapter 2 - The Indian Act

Chapter 2 - The Indian Act

Chapter 2 - The Indian Act

In chapter 2 of this series, Kevin discusses the Indian Act and specifically call to action #92:

"We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

i. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.

ii. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

iii. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Kevin Lamoureux

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

 

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

PRESENTER

Kevin Lamoureux

Professor and Associate Vice President, University of Winnipeg

Transcript

Hello, Bijou, Mino gigizheb, Good morning. I'm Kevin Lamoureux. I have the great pleasure of speaking to you today from here at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center on traditional territory, and I wanted to talk to you today a little bit about reconciliation.

What I thought we might do with our short time together in this video is take a look at just one of the calls to action, and the call to action I wanted to focus on speaks to the corporate sector, call to action 92: we call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous people as a reconciliation framework, and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources.

This would include, but not be limited to the following. Section three: provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

I had asked us to think about two very simple questions, the first being, why is this being asked of us? Let's do this exercise together. Why is call to action 92 being asked of the corporate sector? Well, I think that part of the reason that this is being asked of us is because we have an opportunity to reimagine business as usual in Canada.

Here in this country, we have something called a duty to consult when it comes to First Nations people, their land and their resources, and if we're really, truly going to understand what duty to consult means, we might have to go back and do a little bit of a history. So, if you will, if you'll bear with me, I want to take us back in time, all the way to 1763.

You would be rightly concerned if I'm saying 1763. What does this have to do with business today? I promise you that this is going to be relevant. Bear with me. 1763 was the date of the royal proclamation, which came at the end of the Seven Years War. The Seven Years War was a battle between the British and the French. Here in Canada, it was a battle for control over what would eventually become British North America.

And when the British took control of British North America, King George III issued the royal proclamation, and what he said in that statement that is so important for us here today across Canada, particularly in places where I hear land acknowledgements involving the unceded territory of First People, is that all land here is the legal property of First Nations and will remain theirs forever unless surrendered through treaty with the Crown.

Now, because this is so important for our conversation here today, because this is so important for understanding the duty to consult, I'm going to repeat myself. Everything here is the legal property of, unless surrendered through. I have friends who are lawyers who have tried to explain to me as best they can that, because of Canadian common law practice, this is still legal precedence in Canada.

I have to admit, I don't fully understand that, but I will say that for me, it almost doesn't matter, because when we repatriated our constitution in 1982, section 25 of our constitution reaffirms the royal proclamation. Everything here belongs to, unless surrendered through. Section 35 of our constitution reaffirms our identity as a treaty country. This is where the duty to consult comes from.

And so this royal proclamation set a framework for us to establish a nation from sea to sea based upon the coming together of people, based upon deal making, based upon partnerships, so if we're going to truly understand the partnership, we have to talk about treaty, and this is one of those concepts that can be difficult to understand.

In Winnipeg, where I'm from, Treaty One Territory, which was signed in 1871, I'll have people who will ask me, "Why does this matter? 1871, who cares? What relevancy does this have to today's world?" So we should get on the same page. We should understand what this means.

All that a treaty is by definition, a dictionary definition, is a legal contract signed between sovereign nations. That's it. And these treaties lay the groundwork for what will become Canada. And if we're truly going to understand these treaties, we have to recognize that these treaties allowed us to build a country from sea to shining sea through peace.

Now, these treaties, these legal contracts that were entered into on our behalf that allowed us to establish a country through peace, when do they expire? There is a termination date identified. I don't know how many people will be familiar with the phrase, "For as long as the sun shines, the grasses grow, and the waters flow." We might ask the question, "How long is that?" We hope a very long time.

And what I would say to you, brothers and sisters, and what I say to all Canadians is thank goodness. Thank goodness there's no end date to these partnerships, these contracts in sight, because we did very, very well as a country as a result of these treaties.

I would ask you to think for just a moment, wherever you may be watching this video from right now, how are you benefiting from the signing of these treaties? How is your life impacted by these agreements? We already talked about the example of peace. We could talk about land. Collectively, largest land transfer in human history, but I would invite us to think a little bit more abstractly.

Is there anything of value on that land? Any clean drinking water? Any trees for a logging industry? Any farmland for an agrarian economy? Any minerals for mining? Any oil sands? We could talk about how those treaties allowed us to build a railway, which brought British Columbia into Confederation, which was not a sure thing. We could talk about how our partnerships with the Haudenosaunee allowed us to defend ourselves against the Americans in 1812.

We could talk about how we were able to build a G7 economy, which means that even when we feel like our budgets are tight, we enjoy a higher standard of living than most of humankind could ever even imagine. We could talk about how we built a country that has become a shining beacon of hope and safety and security for immigrants and refugees, like my grandparents, who couldn't find that in their Homeland.

Quite simply, what I think we got out of the signing of these treaties was one of the most beautiful countries that humankind will ever know. Thank goodness there's no end date to these partnerships in sight.

Of course, we have to acknowledge that not all of Canada was settled according to our constitution according to this obligation established through the royal proclamation. Here in British Columbia and in the Yukon, settlement occurred without that sacred responsibility. We have citizens alive today that are trying to sort through the complexity of knowing that there are families who have lived on land for generations, land that was never originally entitled to be given to them. How do we make sense of that?

Well, I have to trust that the commissioners, in giving us these calls to action, gave us a roadmap for solving these problems together, and I know that Canada is at its best when we solve problems together, as communities, as people coming together. But there's another question we have to ask. If we know what we got out of the signing of these contracts, what about our brothers and sisters? What about the First Nations people who were our partners in building Canada? What were they promised?

Now, this, perhaps, is a difficult question to answer. The wording may be different when we look at the treaties of the East Coast with the Wolastoqiyik and Mi'kmaq people, the peace and friendship treaties which were never about surrendering land. We could talk again about the pre-Confederation numbered treaties of upper and lower Canada. We could talk again about the post-Confederation numbered treaties one through 11. We could talk about modern treaties, like the Nisga'a agreement, the final agreement, all of the agreements that are being negotiated right now in the Yukon Territory.

But wherever we find treaties in Canada, I think we can speak generally to the spirit and intent in which those agreements were created. What was promised to our brothers and sisters, very simply, was this: the opportunity to build happy, healthy, vibrant communities; independent, but partnered; self-governing, but part of the broader Canadian politic. That is the promise: happy, healthy, vibrant communities.

That's the promise that is absent in unceded territories. But if we recognize that that's the spirit and intent of the partnerships which created our country, if we understand that we are a nation that began with a coming together of people, and our journey was supposed to take us here, happy, healthy, vibrant communities, the next question we have to ask in thinking about reconciliation is, why, if we were supposed to end up here, did we end up way over there? Why did we end up way over here?

And you know where here is. If you live in the same country as me, you see the same newspaper articles, you hear the same stories. You know where here is. Here is where we have communities across this country that have some of the highest suicide rates on the face of the planet. Here is where there are communities across the country that don't have clean drinking water in 2021. That is absurd if we stop to think about it objectively.

Here is where there are communities across the Northern part of the Prairie Provinces that have some of the highest rates of children in care on the face of the planet. That wasn't an exaggeration. 90 to 95 percent of whom can be Indigenous. Highest on Mother Earth. Here is where we have communities living under third world conditions. Here is where we have communities, like Shoal lake 40, that Winnipeg, my home city, got its clean drinking water from that were under a boil water advisory for 20 years.

Here is a country where there is something in British Columbia called the Highway of Tears, and there are over 1200 missing and murdered Indigenous women since the 1980s who should be at home with their families tonight but won't be. Here is where we found 215 unmarked graves of children, kids. How did we end up here when this is never what Canada should have been?

It's a very good question. It's perhaps a very difficult question, but it's one we have to try and answer as a nation, and if I were to offer my opinion, if I were to offer my understanding of how we ended up so far away from where we should have been, I might start by acknowledging that here in Canada, we are the last Western industrialized country on Earth.

We are the last country in the so-called world that enforces federal race based laws based on blood quanta. We're the last country on Earth that does that. No other country in the so-called developed world divides its citizens according to who their parents are and says, "Here's a set of laws that apply to you and a set of laws that apply to everybody else." No one else on Earth.

The Americans have termination policies. Israel has a corollary with Palestinians, but at the level of federal enforcement, nothing comes close to the Indian Act. And if I needed to provide some explanation for how we ended up so very far from where we should have been, I will point to the Indian Act every single time. The Indian Act, the mindset that created it, and the mindset that allows it to continue to exist.

So what is it? The Indian Act is a piece of apartheid legislation that has dictated every aspect of life for our First Nation's brothers and sisters since the moment it was created, including who is and who isn't an Indian. If it's difficult sometimes for us to understand the whole status nonstatus thing, and it can be very difficult to untangle that mess. If it's difficult to understand, I need us to know that it is downright traumatic for Indigenous peoples.

I cannot articulate how damaging that system has been, how many people's lives were destroyed, how many families were broken apart, communities violated, because of who mom and dad fell in love with. The number of people across this country who may be suffering and dying from addiction because they had their identity ripped out of their lives, the internalized racism that's created, "I'm more Indian than you because I have a card from the government." It's a nightmare.

It dictates healthcare, which is why Jordan River Anderson lay in that hospital bed for five years. It's why the last time we were dealing with the flu outbreak, you may recall H1N1, in Manitoba, we were taught to cough into our sleeves and were given vaccines. It seems like simpler times, but there were First Nations communities in my province who, instead of receiving vaccines were given, what? Body bags, and were told to bury their dead because no vaccines were coming.

It dictates education, which is why there are schools in your province, wherever you may be, that receive anywhere from two to $4,000 less per year per student in their operating budget. You may not know much about school management, but I would invite you, the next time you visit your kid's school, to imagine everything that would disappear with that money. There's nothing in the Indian Act that talks about curriculum, teacher requirements, minimum number of teaching days, adaptive services, information technology, libraries, intramurals, clinical services, nothing.

It dictates governance. The chief and council system is an artifact of the Indian Act. It dictates infrastructure. It has governed every aspect of life for First Nations people since the moment it was created.

And it was also responsible for residential schools, which sucks, because I'm a dad, and it might have been as recently as 1996 that my family might have gotten that knock on the door, and there might have been an RCMP officer on the other side because our government didn't want me to raise my child. And I wish I didn't, but I can't help sometimes but wonder what if.

When my child has a hard time falling asleep at night and I go into her room and I sing to her and I rub her back, I sometimes fall into the nightmare trap of thinking, "What if?" What if, instead of somebody coming into that room and singing to her, they hit her or put soap in her mouth for speaking the language that I taught her to speak or committed some other vile atrocity? And what if they put her in a room full of children suffering from tuberculosis, with no healthcare and no ventilation, guaranteeing a mortality rate higher than we saw in World War I?

And what if they took her body and buried it in an unmarked grave so that I would never be able to find her again and put tobacco down and sing her into the arms of her ancestors? Or what if she survived, and instead of having the opportunity to heal when she grew up, when she became a parent, somebody came along and took away her kids, and then they took away their kids, and then their kids, and then their kids? I'm not done. And then their children, and then their children?

What would that possibly look like? Well, it would look like Canada in 2021. It would look exactly like Canada today, but here's the thing I need you to understand about residential schools and the Indian Act. I need you to understand that nothing that I've told you is your fault. You didn't do this. This isn't on you, but you do have to make a decision, and the decision that you have to make is this: even though I didn't create the problem, do I want to be part of the solution? And that is a decision that you have to make.

 

Business, nicely done.

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